The number of abandoned dogs is increasing as the effects of the credit crunch continue to bite, the RSPCA warned today.
In the first four months of this year, the animal welfare charity was inundated with 3,512 calls from members of the public about dumped dogs - a 12.9 per cent rise on the 3,110 received in same period last year.
Between January and April 2010, 4,966 dogs were abandoned - 10.3 per cent more than last year (4,502).
Renewing its call for the reintroduction of a dog licence, the charity revealed it was receiving information about an abandoned dog every hour.
It said the move would tackle a wide range of dog welfare problems stemming from a lack of traceable ownership.
The RSPCA added funding from such a scheme could be ploughed into addressing issues such as abandonment, dangerous dogs, including dog attacks, the risks to human health from dog-related diseases, irresponsible dog breeding and deliberate cruelty to dogs.
David Bowles, the RSPCA's head of external affairs, said: "Every year, we sadly see thousands of dogs heartlessly abandoned throughout England and Wales. The RSPCA and various organisations work tirelessly to help the poor animals who are cast aside in such a reckless manner.
"But we believe that a dog licensing scheme could provide a solution to this ongoing problem and help make sure that people who do dump their dogs don't get away with this criminal offence."
A TNS poll of 1,017 adults conducted for the charity in February this year found 76 per cent of people and 66 per cent of dog owners would be in favour of a licence scheme.
Dog licences were abolished in 1987 but are still in force in Northern Ireland.